UBS Whistle-Blower, Skadden, Hunton: Business of Law

Bradley Birkenfeld, the former UBS AG banker who went to prison after telling the Internal Revenue Service how the bank helped thousands of Americans evade taxes, secured a whistle-blower award of $104 million, the largest individual federal payout in U.S. history.

Birkenfeld told authorities how UBS bankers came to the U.S. to woo rich Americans, managed $20 billion of their assets and helped them cheat the IRS. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy in 2008, a year after reporting the bank’s conduct to the Justice Department, U.S. Senate, IRS and Securities and Exchange Commission. He left prison on Aug. 1.

“The IRS sent 104 million messages to whistle-blowers around the world -- that there is now a safe and secure way to report tax fraud,” Birkenfeld’s attorney Stephen M. Kohn, executive director of the National Whistleblowers Center, said yesterday at a news conference in Washington. He is seeking a presidential pardon for Birkenfeld, who is under home confinement.

Birkenfeld’s disclosures preceded UBS’s decision to pay $780 million to avoid prosecution, admit it fostered tax evasion from 2000 to 2007 and turn over data on 250 Swiss accounts. UBS later agreed to provide information on another 4,450 accounts. Since then, at least 33,000 Americans have voluntarily disclosed offshore accounts to the IRS, generating more than $5 billion.

“Today the IRS sent a message to every American taxpayer who still has an illegal offshore account,” Kohn said. “Turn yourself in while there is still an amnesty program. Turn yourself in before your banker does.”

The IRS confirmed the award in a statement.

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AB InBev’s Claim to ‘Bud’ Name Based on Fraud, Czech Brewer Says

Anheuser-Busch InBev NV’s claim to the European Union-wide trademark on the word “Bud” for beer and other products is based on a fraud that began more than a century ago, Budejovicky Budvar NP told a European court.

“Anheuser-Busch’s claim to the name is based on a fraud that goes back to 1894,” Fabienne Fajgenbaum, a lawyer representing Budvar, told a three-judge panel of the EU’s second-highest court in Luxembourg yesterday. “When Mr. Busch discovered an extremely interesting beer in the town of Budweis, Czech Republic, he went back to the U.S. and brewed a beer in the way it had been done in the region since the 13th century.”

The hearing was part of a fight that started 16 years ago with Anheuser-Busch’s bid to get an EU trademark for the name Bud. The EU General Court may have the final say on whether the world’s biggest brewer can get the sole rights to the name across the 27-nation bloc.

The EU’s top court last year told the lower EU court to re-examine the case after making mistakes in a ruling that upheld Czech competitor Budvar’s challenge.

“Budvar had over 100 years to start using the term Bud and it didn’t start doing so until 1997,” said Verena von Bomhard, a lawyer representing AB InBev. “Bud is certainly not original of our Czech friends.”

The EU’s trademark agency -- where Anheuser-Busch sought the EU trademark rights in yesterday’s case in 1996, 1999 and 2000 -- rejected Budvar’s opposition on lack of evidence for its prior rights to the name. The Czech company markets its brew as Budvar in some places with the word Budweiser in smaller print and in others it sells beer as Bud, adding “original Czech.”

The cases are T-225/06 RENV, T-255/06 RENV, T-257/06 RENV, T-309/06 RENV, Budějovický Budvar v. OHMI - Anheuser-Busch.


Vatican Hires Swiss Lawyer to Help Battle Money Laundering

The Vatican hired a Swiss lawyer to help make its finances more transparent and address concerns about money laundering.

Rene Bruelhart, 40, who has served for eight years as director of the Financial Intelligence Unit of Liechtenstein, will consult on financial crime issues, the Vatican said on its website.

“The fact that the Holy See has decided to avail itself of the systematic collaboration of an international expert in the fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism is a strong signal,” a Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi said yesterday in an interview with Vatican Radio.

The Vatican bank has been at the center of several financial scandals in recent years. Paolo Cipriani, director general of the Vatican Bank, known as IOR, and its former head, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, were placed under investigation by Italian prosecutors in 2010 for allegedly omitting data in wire transfers from an Italian account. Prosecutors seized 23 million euros ($29 million) from a Rome bank account registered to the IOR amid suspicion of money-laundering violations. The Italian probe triggered calls to bring the city-state in line with European Union financial rules and become more transparent.


Transocean to Quit Shallow-Water Rig Industry It Invented

Baker Botts LLP advised Transocean Ltd., which agreed to sell most of its shallow-water drilling fleet for $1.05 billion as part of the company’s exit from the market for rigs propped up on steel legs that it created more than 50 years ago.

Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP advised Shelf Drilling International Holdings Ltd., a newly formed company owned by private equity investors and management, which will pay $855 million in cash and $195 million in preferred shares for 38 rigs that can drill in seas shallower than about 400 feet (122 meters), Vernier, Switzerland-based Transocean said Sept. 10 in a statement.

Baker Botts partners included lead corporate lawyer Gene Oshman; James Mayor, corporate; Derek Green, tax; Gail Stewart, employee benefits; and Luke Weedon, finance.

The Skadden team is led by partners Marc Packer, mergers and acquisitions; and Frank Bayouth and Ann Hawkins, corporate.

Transocean Chief Executive Officer Steven L. Newman is shedding shallow-water rigs to focus on deep-water and specialized drilling gear that commands higher rates from oil producers. Transocean vessels that can operate in 10,000 feet of water and drill several miles into the Earth can garner more than $400,000 a day, four times the going rate for so-called jackup rigs that have retractable legs that can reach the seafloor.

Transocean expects to recognize a “significant” loss on the sale, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The company valued the assets at about $1.4 billion at the end of the second quarter.

The company plans to sell its seven remaining standard jackups and exit that business in the third quarter.

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Consumer Financial Protection Lawyer Joins Hunton & Williams

Ronald L. Rubin joined Hunton & Williams LLP’s bankruptcy, restructuring & creditor’s rights practice as a partner in Washington. Rubin was previously an enforcement attorney at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

He will be part of the firm’s 30-member bankruptcy, restructuring and creditors’ rights team. As one of the earliest employees in the CFPB’s Supervision, Fair Lending and Enforcement Division, Rubin played a role in building the new agency’s enforcement capabilities.

Rubin began his career as a criminal prosecutor. He also spent seven years investigating and prosecuting securities law violations as senior special counsel at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and was a managing director in the legal and compliance department of Bear Stearns & Co., the firm said.

Hunton & Williams has more than 800 lawyers in 19 offices around the world.

Brown Rudnick Hires Washington and London White-Collar Partners

Brown Rudnick LLP hired Thomas A. Ferrigno as a partner in the Washington office and Mark Beardsworth as a partner in the London office. Ferrigno, formerly of Fullbright & Jaworski LLP, and Beardsworth, who moved from Kingsley Napley LLP, both join the white collar defense & government investigations practice.

Ferrigno has focused his practice on securities enforcement matters. Beardsworth defends serious fraud and criminal matters, with expertise in prosecutions brought by the Serious Fraud Office, the Financial Services Authority and HM Revenue and Customs.

Brown Rudnick has seven offices in the U.S. and U.K.

Sheppard Mullin Hires Immigration Lawyer in Washington

Dawn M. Lurie joined Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP as a partner in the firm’s labor and employment practice group and leader of the business immigration and compliance practice. She will be based in the Washington office.

She previously practiced at Greenberg Traurig LLP, Sheppard Mullin said. A special counsel who practiced with her at Greenberg also joined Sheppard Mullin’s labor and employment practice group in the Century City office in Los Angeles.

Lurie has advised high-net worth individuals on the EB-5 Entrepreneur Investment visa program for two decades, Sheppard Mullin said.

Sheppard Mullin has 50 attorneys in its Washington office and 50 in its Century City office. The firm’s labor and employment practice group includes 90 attorneys firmwide. Sheppard Mullin has almost 600 attorneys in 16 offices in the U.S., Europe and Asia.

Pryor Cashman Adds Corporate and China Partner in New York

Pryor Cashman LLP announced the addition of M. Ali Panjwani to its corporate and China practice groups as a partner in New York. Panjwani joins from Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, where he was a member of that firm’s corporate and securities practice.

Panjwani’s practice involves advising investment banks, investment funds, publicly listed issuers and startup companies in corporate and securities matters, including underwritten offerings, registered direct transactions, venture financing, reverse mergers and private placement transactions.

Pryor Cashman has more than 120 attorneys in its main office in New York City and an office in Los Angeles.

Greenberg Traurig Lawyers Join Edwards Wildman in New Jersey

Edwards Wildman Palmer LLP said Charles R. Berman, who has more than three decades of experience in commercial lending, regulatory and corporate work, and Timothy A. Kalas, whose practice focuses on commercial lending and transactional real estate, have joined the firm as partners in the business law department in Madison, New Jersey. Both were with the New Jersey office of Greenberg Traurig LLP.

Edwards Wildman has 625 lawyers in 14 offices in the U.S., U.K, and Asia.

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